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#634983 - 05/20/03 12:33 AM Favorite Hammers
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1299
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
I'd like to know from experienced piano techs/rebuilders, which are your favorite hammers and why? I've played pianos with Renner, Abel, S&S, Japanese hammers (don't know the name)and Isaac. Didn't care much for the Renner. Steinway can be very good if properly worked and voiced. I think my preferred is Isaac. I'm not a tech, just a player.
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#634984 - 05/20/03 10:49 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
I don't get to change hammers enough to have really done a survey of all the brands, but after having tried a few of the more recently available hammers like Renner, Abel, etc, I am tending to want to go back to the old style lacquer-loaded hammer like Steinway or Ronsen. Not for every piano. For instance I would not put them in a Yamaha I think. But would for the typical American piano. And I do wish Mason & Hamlin would go back to that style hammer. The #1 complaint I hear about the new M&Hs is tone, yet the old ones I think were just so gorgeous sounding. I don't like the fact that some of these high-tension hammers like Renner Blues just have a certain sound to them and there isn't much you can do about it. Plus the prep work needed on out-of-the-box Blues is horrendous, IMO.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#634985 - 05/20/03 12:10 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
curry Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 3769
Loc: Hamilton Twp, NJ
My absolute favorite hammers to work with are those sold by Wally Brooks Ltd.I have used many sets of his Abel Encore hammers.They provide a very good match for American pianos(Steinway,Mason Baldwin)and are easily voiced up or down with light needling or filing.A complete voicing with these hammers takes about 3 hours to do,and you end up with a clear, well balanced full bodied singing tone that also projects well too.I don't use Renner Premium Blues,but have stocked a lot of sets of Medium density Renners purchased from American Piano Supply before Schaff purchased them.They are quite a bit different from the Blues,a lot easier to voice,more along the lines of what Bechstein uses. \:\)
_________________________
G.Fiore "aka-Curry". Tuner-Technician serving the central NJ, S.E. PA area. b214cm@aol.com Concert tuning, Regulation-voicing specialist.
Dampp-Chaser installations, piano appraisals. PTG S.Jersey Chapter 080.
Bösendorfer 214 # 47,299 214-358

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#634986 - 05/21/03 12:57 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
jonathan_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/03
Posts: 27
what kind of hammers are in a Petrof IV?

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#634987 - 05/21/03 01:30 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1299
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
I just got my piano back from being rebuilt. I've been without for 14 months. I ended up going with S&S hammers instead of Isaacs, which was my first choice. I went with the S&S because my rebuilder recommended them. Since he is used to working with them, and spends a lot of time shaping, trimming and voicing, I decided to go with his suggestion. I must admit, they turned out very well. I've played many new Steinway B's and they all fell short of a wonderful experience. Not because they're bad pianos, but the raw hammers are too soft and "wooly". With proper voicing and juicing, they can be very good. My teacher doesn't like them. He played my piano and said the overtones are not right. In a way I agree, but that's a long story. He believes a different set of hammers, Isaacs to be exact, would greatly improve things. Can hammers make a big difference in harmonics and inharmonicity? The minor few false beats I still have left are a characteristic of the piano. I think the plate scaling is such that the very few unpleasant sounds that come from the extreme ranges of the keyboard can never be completely removed. The rebuilder did an excellant job on my 1960 S&S B. It was in terrible shape. But my teacher has me second guessing the hammers.
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#634988 - 05/21/03 02:14 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
So your teacher thinks that Steinway hammers in a Steinway piano aren't "right" and can't produce the right overtones, and only Isaac hammers which were never used by the Steinway company would make the piano sound correct?

Sheesh.

I think your piano teacher should stick to teaching piano.

BTW, hammers are not the only thing affecting harmonic content.

But if you are happy with the tone, why sweat it?

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#634989 - 05/21/03 08:58 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
Steinway hammers aren't too soft and wooly, and atually they aren't that soft at all. I just witnessed a Steinway B undergo a hammer reshaping and alignment, but no lacquer was applied. Previously the piano was muffled and had no range, but now the piano has a huge range and the muffled quality has been replaced with brilliance. The tech thinks it could be just a tad brighter on the high end, and may use just a bit of lacquer. But starting with lacquer as many might have tried would have been a mistake on this piano.

Ryan

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#634990 - 05/21/03 10:29 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Ryan, Might they have been lacquered when first installed? You mentioned it was only a reshaping and alignment of existing hammers, not a new set.

On a relative basis, I'd find it difficult to conclude they started life on the hard side. I am waiting for a set to come in, now, and have sweated who is going to get the voicing work. I really liked a couple of new 'B's at the dealership for their pp, p, and mf capability. You didn't have to slow the hammer down uncontrolably to get the chosen dynamic (Note, I also didn't know their leverage set-up and how that figures into the mix). The voicer ends up being one who pre-lacquers, in the case of raw, and uses key plastic disolved in acetone for the final, "more reversable", prep.

I've been told the new 'B's generally arrive, at least in the Boston area, having been pre-lacquered at the factory and needing only a final voice. Replicating that voice on raw S&S hammers becomes more challenging because two are generally involved in bringing the hammers to final prep.

In getting references before going out to IN and inspecting our 'B', I was able to discuss voicing with one of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra techs, who mentioned he always lacquered raw S&S hammers at least up from the base to not far above 9 and 3 o'clock. It would be from there, at the the educational institutions he worked, that he would let them get played in. No lacquer equaled a piano that was never touched by the students (ie wooly, undynamic).

If I go with the dealer tech, its $90 per hour and uncertainty with regard to the pre-lacquering. If I stay with the concert tech, its cheaper but I fear unmanagable power below the upper treble, where he's an ace. Both could probably make me happy, but then I'd have to rely on my kamunnakasion skills :rolleyes: .

Chris
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Amateur At Large

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#634991 - 05/21/03 12:17 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1299
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
I always though Steinway hammers were one of the "cold molded" hammers made specifically with the intent to voice with a hardener of some type (lacquer or keytop/acetone). I think these hammers must be juiced to sound. They also must unerdgo some degree of shaping. They really look crude out of the box. Perhaps someone else with more experience than me can give more insight.

Another thought. Old recordings, that is, recordings made of great artists playing on pianos of their day had hammers that were probably juiced with the old type of lacquer. Eg, Schnabel, Gieseking, Bachaus, Kempff etc. I think they sounded pretty good.
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#634992 - 05/21/03 01:19 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I wasn't told they were hard, just "not that soft". I think the high treble had been lacquered but not the rest of the set - there was a noticeable break. Most of the set were muffled and couldn't really play above mf.

I don't agree that cold pressed hammers are specifically designed for lacquering. They can be made to sound quite nice with just shaping, at least from what I have seen.

Ralph, three of the pianists you mentioned played Bosendorfer. \:\)

Ryan

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#634993 - 05/21/03 02:25 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
curry Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 3769
Loc: Hamilton Twp, NJ
Chris,all Steinway hammers used in and sold by their parts dept., are pre-lacquered low in the shoulders.When you receive a set of hammers from Steinway they must be lacquered.The recommended approach by Steinway is to drench them,literally pour it on.Let dry 24 hours,then apply again if needed.Usually 2 dousings is enough.Then comes the fine voicing.There is no way a set from their parts dept \:\) could be used without lacquering,they are way too soft and would sound thin and reedy.Also keytops in acetone is not the way to go on Steinway hammers,Only Nitro-cellulose lacquer,sanding-sealer,or shellac.Keytops in acetone is over-kill,too hard,and does not create the proper foundation for harmonic development.
_________________________
G.Fiore "aka-Curry". Tuner-Technician serving the central NJ, S.E. PA area. b214cm@aol.com Concert tuning, Regulation-voicing specialist.
Dampp-Chaser installations, piano appraisals. PTG S.Jersey Chapter 080.
Bösendorfer 214 # 47,299 214-358

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#634994 - 05/21/03 02:57 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
So how do you explain the muffled, soft tone out of the box?

Ryan

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#634995 - 05/21/03 03:38 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Quote:
-------
Chris,all Steinway hammers used in and sold by their parts dept., are pre-lacquered low in the shoulders.
------

Curry, thanks for the tip and also the one for Brooks Ltd. Are you saying they will come lacquered from Steinway, or that it is left for the buyer to do?

Brooks Ltd is to get the hammers and shanks, once they come in to me. The delay is the Steinway parts department, go figure. I didn't want to go pre-bored because the treble string heights taper down a full 1/8th inch. I am also not sure about having Brooks taper the hammers for fear of too much weight loss. I suppose it could be artificially added back and that they should know how much has to be taken off for clearance issues, if any. They have probably done a thousand plus sets for this piano scale. Any thoughts?

Their Abel set-ups are so reasonably priced, I was tempted to order spares \:D .

Chris
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Amateur At Large

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#634996 - 05/21/03 04:03 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
kluurs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 3739
Loc: Chicago
Didn't Steinway hammers undergo a big change about 8-10 years ago? Do you think this made much (if any) difference in the Steinway "sound?"

Ken

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#634997 - 05/21/03 06:40 PM Re: Favorite Hammers
MikeC65 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/01
Posts: 325
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Chris, your experience is paralleling mine to a remarkable degree. My Steinway K action has been completely rebuilt using some parts from Steinway and some parts from Wally Brooks (including Abel Encores), and all the delays in getting parts were from Steinway's parts department. They STILL won't even talk to my tech about getting damper blocks, the only remaining original parts in the action. Wally Brooks, on the other hand, was great. As far as your concern about the prebored hammers and the tapering, my experience was that Brooks knows exactly how it should be done and what fits. All my tech had to do was give them the serial # of my piano, and everything came in exactly as required to fit the instrument. Sure saved me a lot of labor charges.
_________________________
Mike Cohan
St. Louis, MO
1910 Steinway Model K

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#634998 - 05/22/03 10:32 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Mike,

I gave up trying to deal with Steinway parts department long ago. They seem to have a policy of snubbery/snobbery with independent techs. My impression is that they are trying to force anyone wanting to do major repairs on their Steinway into having to go to their dealer network for rebuilding, etc.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#634999 - 05/22/03 11:06 AM Re: Favorite Hammers
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1299
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
I'm not directly involved in the piano rebuilding business, but I think Steinway's biggest competitor are old Steinways. They will probably do everything they can to make if more difficult for someone to rebuild an old Steinway. Many people who buy a Steinway have it their head they want a Steinway. If they don't find a new one they like; I sure didn't, then they will find a used one they like and make changes to suit their tastes. That's what I did, and am still doing. That's why I asked the original question about hammers. I'm sure Steinway doesn't like people like me who use their old products to compete with them. They lost a sale when I bought my 1960 B because I am one of those people who wanted a Steinway. If they would have taken the time to perp their pianos, specifically the hammers, I would have bought a new one. I played several C&A pianos which were absolutely wonderful, but was told they were not for sale. Why don't they just work their new pianos up to the standards of their C&A pianos? I, and probably many others, would have bought one.
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Do or do not. There is no try.

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